Preparation and Characterization of Nickel Nanoparticles for Binding to His-tag Proteins and Antigens

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The purpose of these studies was to prepare nanoparticles (NPs) with a small amount of surface-chelated nickel for obtaining enhanced binding of histidine-tagged (his-tag) proteins compared to non-histidine-tagged protein binding to charged nanoparticles.

Materials and Methods

NPs were prepared from oil-in-water microemulsion precursors using emulsifying wax, 3 mM Brij 78 and 0.1 mM DOGS-NTA-Ni lipid (referred to as Ni-NPs). The amount of lipid entrapped in the NPs was quantitated by atomic emission spectroscopy (AES). The Ni-NPs were investigated for binding to two his-tag proteins, green fluorescent protein (GFP) and his-tag HIV-1 Gag p24. In vivo studies in mice were carried out to evaluate the immune responses obtained to his-tag Gag p24 bound to Ni-NPs.


AES studies demonstrated that approximately 5% of the DOGS-NTA-Ni lipid used was entrapped in the NPs. The optimal binding ratio his-tag GFP and his-tag Gag p24 to Ni-NPs was found to be 1:33.7 and 1:35.4 w/w, respectively. This interaction was stable at 37°C in PBS, pH 7.4 over 4 h and the interaction of his-tag GFP with the Ni-NPs was enhanced compared to control NPs prepared with no Ni on the surface (NTA-NPs). The in vivo studies demonstrated enhanced serum IgG and IgG2a responses to his-tag Gag p24 bound to Ni-NPs compared to protein adjuvanted with Alum or adsorbed on the surface of control NTA-NPs.


Ni-NPs can be used to bind strongly to his-tag proteins. This system was demonstrated to have potential applications in vaccine delivery for enhancing immune responses to protein-based vaccines.

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